Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Monday, July 31, 2006


On Saturday, I decided what I was going to do in a year. I'm going to save all the money I can from my job, and when my lease ends (assuming I either got into law school or got accepted at the State Department), spend as long as possible backpacking in Europe. Maybe see if I can go through Turkey, maybe end my trip in Beirut (it’s supposed to be an amazing city, and being there after a bombing campaign would be mind blowing).

This got me thinking about what my other goals in life. I met one of my goals last year, being President of Phi Sig. True, I wasn't the best Prez in our history, but it was a goal I had for a few years, so accomplishing it was nice. But the rest are fuzzy abstract concepts in my head. So I've decided to write them down.

Keep in mind while reading this that I'm perfectly aware that many of my goals are probably unattainable. I like to classify my goals into two groups: Feasible and Very Unlikely. For example, a feasible goal is to eventually be a Senator (fuck Representatives). It’s hard, but possible. A very unlikely goal is to be President. Considering that only 42 people have been President in 250 years, I find it unlikely that I can ever get there. That doesn't mean I'm not going to not claim it as a goal, I'm just being realistic about it.

So what follows is the list of my goals in life, with some commentary.

1) Run for public office - Definitely feasible.
2) Win a public office - I think I can do it, but we'll see it.
3) Become a Senator (probably of Florida) - Possible
4) Become President - Unlikely in the extreme.
5) Learn another language - With my language skills, its going to be hard. But possible
6) Become fluent in Arabic - Unlikely. I should probably get on that.
7) Work for the State Department - Very very possible
8) Work for the CIA - Also very possible. It may be that this and the last goal are mutually exclusive. But if you're a CIA station chief, you work out of an embassy. Best of both worlds.
9) Go to law school - The option my parents are really pushing for. I want to do it, but I don't see it in my immediate future.
10) Go to Antarctica - After reading Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson, this has always been a goal of mine.
11) Spend a season in Antarctica - Unlikely, but I hope to pull it off. You don't get to know a place by just visiting it. Especially a place as primal as Antarctica.
12) Go to Mars - Heh. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
13) Colonize Mars - If that happens in my life time, I'm the first in line to volunteer. I probably won't, but I'll still dream. Once again, I can thank Kim Stanley Robinson for this dream.
14) Climb a mountain - Not Everest, cause I don't want to die. Maybe McKinley?
15) Write a book
16) Write a book that does well with the critics
17) Write a book that does well with the critics and with the public (the hardest of the three). I know polls show that something like 70% of people feel they can write a book .I need a lot more practice writing. But if Newt Fucking Gingrich can write fiction, so I can I.
18) Travel a lot
19) Own a lot of land. Keep it natural.
20) Have a house with a library
21) Have enough books to warrant a library (my mom would argue that I'm very close).
22) Drink a beer on ever continent.
23) Drink a beer in every country (that’s what airport bars are for).
24) Be happy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Writing for Writing's Sake

One of the main reasons for having this blog is so that I can write. Practice makes perfect with most things, and writing's no different. The problem is that for the last week, my life has been pretty boring. So trying to find somethign to write has been very very hard. So tonight, I'm writing whatever comes to mind.

1) Do I talk too much? I never would have thought to ask that question four years ago. I was quiet and barely out of my shell. Now, after the crucible of college, I don't seem to shut up. The problem I think I may have is that I don't give other people the space, time, or attention to talk. Instead, I just flow over them. I think I've been noticing that a bit recently, but I started thinking about it after running into Jason today. We talked and walked around campus for a while during my lunch break, and I found myself talking for most of the time. Is that cause I'm not letting him talk, or that he's letting me talk.

I guess its good that I'm noticing it, at least. Recognition is the first step to elimination. So I'll try to be better, but if anyone notices me doing that, don't be afraid to punch me. Hard.

2) A bunch of people are spending the weekend in the amazing town of Kansas City (that was sarcasm, there) for Phi Sig's Grand Chapter. While I had fun at Grand Chapter, I'm very glad I don't have to be there. Probably because I'll feel obligated to do work, then get conned by Cush into attending business ("If I have to sit through that boring stuff, at least sit with me so we can make fun of everyone"), and then my drunkenness level would diminish.

3) I realized on the bus ride home while reading Imperial Hubris that I know next to nothing about the Civil War. Nothing. I know some of the poltical and economic background, but nothing of the war itself. With the constant illusions, even today, to the battles of that war, I feel like I'm missing a large part of American History. So now I need to find Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac (all three volumes of it) and see what it has to teach me. Hey, it influenced Orson Scott Card (who it ends up, was born on birthday), so it can't be all bad. Except if it turns me into a reactionary conservative fuckhead. Then that'd be bad.

4) Just saw Clerks 2. Have to say that it was actually one of Kevin Smith's better efforts. The cinematography was good (especially for Smith's standards), the writing was probably some of the best he's done, and the acting and directing was very good. Plus, its hilarious, but still managed to have a lot of soul and heart. I give it my highest rating: Fun and Good.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Where the hell is Matt?

That's a question you could have asked today. I may have been standing in front of you, but I certainly wasn't there. Which made finding this all the more enjoyable:

God, I wish I could do that. But do you know what, I will. And soon. OK, soonish.

Waking up so early today meant two things: 1) Acting like a zombie (and yet still getting praised for doing my work so quickly) and 2) Feeling sick. Whenever I'm sick, or approaching a state of sickness, I feel a certain way. For some reason, my gastrointestinal system is what always ends up feeling worst. I burp and fart constantly, my stomach hurts, and I always feel like I'm hungry. Combine that with the constant attempts by my eyes to close and never open again, and today was an eventful day.

But I have found the solution. I have NyQuil. I shall take a double dose, and me and consciousness shall part ways, never to meet again. At least for ten hours.

Its Four in the Morning...

The above is from a Leonard Cohen song. I thought it was appropriate.

Warning: This post will ramble and be loosely connected, at best.

I didn't think this was possible, but I think I'm getting too much sleep. The reason I'm blogging at 6 in the morning is that I woke up at 3 and haven't been able to go back to sleep. Was it because I went to bed at 10, and have been doing that for the last few nights? Is my body telling me to be more exhausted? All I know is that it is going to be a very, very long day. I may actually drink coffee. That's astounding for me.

You would think that sleeping in Dimsey's room would infect me with a bit of her sleeping sickness. That girl could sleep for 20 hours at a time, and she could do that every day. Usually, that kind of sleep pattern is associated with living in Africa and being bitten by Tsetse Flies. But no, I'm getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep a day, no matter how hard I try to get more. Quite often, I don't get my body.

Like yesterday. Yesterday, I was exhausted. I really had to reason to be. I slept well, I ate well, and I did nothing to warrant my exhaustion. But yet, by 9 o'clock, I was ready for bed. By 10, I was gone. What kind of rational explanation is there for that?

On a completely and utterly unrelated subject, I think I might bring up to my boss the possibility that I should be paid more. I know she's trying to hire a receptionist, but really, if I'm not receptionist, I have about 2/3rds of the work I do right now. Unless there are epic things in my job description that I'm not aware of, why not let me do both jobs. My plan: Offer to do both jobs for a pay increase. I get 12 bucks an hour, no benefits. The receptionist gets 10 bucks with benefits. Why don't I get 16, with benefits? Sounds like a good deal to me.

Now I just gotta get Jane to go for it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This and That

The First Part, in which our Protagonist delivers an Electronic Mail.

You have to love a workplace where you can send an email like this:

Re: An Important Message from Mr. Day

Our fearless leader requires Claritin, Sudafed, or Drugs of similar consistencies. If you have any of the above, please report immediately to David's office for application. All other may continue to cower in fear.

Matt "Minion" McKenzie

The Second Part, in which the flabbiness of our Hero is discussed.

I have not consistently exercised in nearly a year. The last time I really worked out was when I was rock climbing. But a combination of planning GET SLAM'D and Jess being busy put an end to that. I need something else to do.

The problem is that I find most kinds of working out incredibly boring. Running is dull, but even that is better gan going to the gym in that you are actually doing something. I can't wait for the school year to start again, so that I can at least have volleyball once or twice a week to keep me from getting any flabbier.

There are three things I require for an acceptable work-out. The first is use of your brain. Rock climbing was a type of physical problem solving. Volleyball has its strategy. The second criterion is that I'm not good at it. This is easy, as any physical activity is inherently difficult and incomprehensible to me. The third is that it must have a social component. Rock climbing requires two people, which makes it the perfect work-out. So if anyone knows of and wants to participate in anything that matches these criteria, let me know.

In the mean time, I think I might try out stadiums. Look for my death notice in the paper next week.

Part the Third, where even more of the Hero's inadequacies are discussed, but sternly defended by the Hero.

I've noticed that many of my posts are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I usually try to go back and correct the ones I find, but that's no guarantee of them all being gone. I wasn't concerned but after reading this from Neil Gaiman, I'm even less concerned:

[T]his is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

The Final Part, where the Hero's inherent nerd qualities are brought to light, and mocked roundly.

I've had an urge lately to get back into Dungeons and Dragons. I started playing in college, and now that most of my nights are free (since I can't really go out), I think I might give it a try. Of course, the problem becomes trying to find a group of gamers who will let a relative newb in like me. I'll see what I can scrounge up.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Two Articles

Nothing exciting to report today, so once again, I fall upon the old blog standby - a series of links.

Only two things I found today. The first is a blog entry from Science Fiction writer Charles Stross. This guy writes some truly mind-fuck quality books, all about how with the increasing power of computer, eventually we'll reach the technological Singularity, a concept that is so mind blowing, I'm not going to try to explain it. Just click that link if you really want to know.

Anyway, Charlie talks about how the early designers of technologies determine the rules of them. So the people who created the internet determined what the internet would be. His example is the ability to add pictures to a website was the one thing that pushed the internet over the edge into mainstream acceptance (and the main vehicle of acceptance? Porn, of course).

But Stross then tries to pull this into emerging virtual reality technologies. What will determine how virtual reality is run? And then he strikes on something that sends my nerd senses all a-flutter.

Since the most popular use of virtual reality, originally, is probably going to be for games, and the most popular internet games are role-playing, then the person responsible for determining any future virtual reality rules is Gary Gygax, the man who created making Dungeons & Dragons. How awesome is that?

The second article is less nerdtastic, unless you're really into selling cars. Basically, a journalist goes undercover and sells cars for a few months, learning the ins and outs of the car dealership industry. I found it interesting for two reasons.

The first is that I always like to learn about any segment of the population about which I knew next to nothing. And before this article, all I knew about car salesmen was that they're intimidating and out to screw you. But knowing their tricks and their motivations makes them more human, as well as easier to deal with.

Plus, the article backs up a long standing theory of mine: Employees are not evil, its the mid-level managers. The article portrays most of the salesmen in the industry as people just trying to get by, while its the manager who are trying to constantly screw the customer in order to up profit. One more reason I really don't want to get into the corporate world: Somewhere along the line, you'll have to be one of those middle managers. Then you're evil, and there’s no going back.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Walk in the Rain

I decided to go on a little hike today as it’s been a while since I've put on my hiking boots and followed a trail to its end. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good day for being outdoors. It rained off and on for most of the afternoon, but I figured I could chance it. It looked like the main storm had passed, it was just going to be drizzling and overcast for the rest of the afternoon. That's my favorite weather.

I always enjoy cloudy days, though I'm not really sure why. It’s not that I'm a depressive who is only happy when it rains. I just feel happier to be outside when it’s overcast and drizzling ever so slightly. So I went to Paynes Prairie, ready to tackle a new trail. I went to the Visitor Center to get a map, and asked the ranger there about how to get to Alachua Sink.

It ends up Alachua Sink is all the way back in Gainesville, with the trail to it most likely flooded and filled with hungry alligators. I don't know, but I suddenly had an urge to buy some of those flood overalls and a big stick and try to tackle the trail. Maybe some other day. Instead I took the Cone's Dike trail, which is supposed to be 8.25 miles roundtrip, so maybe a 3 or 4 hour trek.

The trail goes right through the marshland, so you get some spectacular views of the Alachua Savannah (yes, that's what it’s officially called). About a mile or so down the trail, I turned a corner and there was a deer sitting right in the middle of the path about 500 yards in front of me. From a distance, it looked like a fawn as it was small and I thought I saw some white spots on its side. But it was all alone (unusual for a fawn) and acting very strangely, running around in circles, shaking its head violently. Thinking it might be hurt or caught in something, I started walking very slowly and quietly in an effort to get closer to it.

About two hundred yards away, there was suddenly a giant crash of thunder. I turned around, and saw a wall of water coming down the path. "Shit," I thought. I turned around again in time to see the deer dive into the marsh. At this point, I decided to cut my losses and head back to my car. Little known fact: If all you’re wearing is a cotton t-shirt, and it starts raining, you'll probably be warmer if you take that shirt off. It certainly made my walk back more enjoyable, especially when I wrapped it around my head to keep the bugs and water out of my face.

The walk back was frightening at times. The thunder was almost deafening, so I'm pretty sure some of the lightning bolts struck fairly close to me. I also discovered that while having waterproof boots are a great thing most of the time, when it’s raining and you're wearing shorts, the water will instead flow into the boot. And as its waterproof, pretty soon any space not taken up by your foot is filled with liquid. If I had had to hike pretty far, it would have been very uncomfortable. Luckily I was pretty close to my destination when it really started becoming a problem.

I'll definitely have to check out that trail again, as it seemed like it would be pretty a pretty nice hike. And I need to start planning that camping/canoeing trip for a few weekends from now. More details on that later.

No, I am not Kinesha

For the past year, I've been getting lots of strange phone calls on my cell phone. For a while, I think my phone number was very close to the number of a parole officer. I would get weird messages on my voice mail that were usually pretty incomprehensible, but usually mentioned 'Officer' something-or-other and the fact that person wouldn't be able to make their weekly meeting. I felt kind of bad for a little bit because, usually, if you don't meet with your parole officer, that’s violation of your parole, which means you go back to jail. Then I realized that it’s their own fault. If they had left a number, I would have called them back to let them know, but as they didn't...well, sucks for them.

Recently, it’s been a very different class of calls. They usually occur between 7 and 8AM, which make them the best kind of wrong number you can get. And it always is a guy asking for a Kinesha. A few weeks ago, a guy called me, asked for Kinesha, and hung up when I told him he had the wrong the number. Before I had time to put the phone down, he called again. This repeated for three more iterations. At the end, he was actually arguing with me, saying that this had to be Kinesha's number.

This leads to one possible reason for all these calls: Somewhere in Jacksonville, a woman named Kinesha must give out my number to guys she doesn't really want to call her. The fact that they call at 7 or 8 in the morning implies to me that she probably spent the night with them, and they were calling because they left something at her apartment, or to make sure she made it home from their apartment all right.

What I'm saying is that Kinesha is a slut.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The trials of getting up at 7am

I went into my boss's office today to drop a letter off and say hi. While I was there, she told me that she's been getting good reports about me and my attitude, and that everyone is glad I'm here. And after a week and half, I have to say that I am too. I have a stable, easy, and well paying job, and for the next year, everything is figured out.

There are two downsides to my job: The time I have to be there, and the monotony of the work. Its not that I mind getting up at 7am. More, I mind the fact that I can't be out until 3am drinking. Last night, I had to leave Oded's at 12:30 after only have three beers. In the past, that would have been a shameful night. Now, I think that’s going to be par for the course.

The monotony will probably be pretty common too. For almost the entire week, I've been slowly making my way through 16 pages of 6 point font tables, matching up data on that sheet with what’s in our database. I can take maybe fifteen minutes of doing that before I need to do something else. Another upcoming project I know about is scanning all the old, pre database licensing agreements into the computer. I gather that will take a few weeks. Yeah, exciting.

But I have to say, overall, I like the job. The people are friendly and helpful, and since I sit on at the very front of the office in my own little alcove, I basically have free reign to do whatever I want. Don't get me wrong, I definitely work, but I also have time to surf the web, read random Wikipedia websites and so on.

Plus, I get to answer phones. I've never been very good at phones, but I think that’s why I get some perverse pleasure at answering them for a living. Plus, I don't know why, but the OTL gets some of the weirdest phone calls.

Last week, I pick up the phone and the lady on the other end goes "Hi. I really need to talk to a doctor. Can you give me the number for the hospital?" I asked her if maybe 911 was a better option, but no, she just wanted the number to the hospital. I tried to help her, and found that you can't find the phone number for Shand's online. I wished her luck, and hung up the phone. It wasn't until after I put the phone down that I realized I forgot to ask why the hell she was calling the Office of Technology Licensing.

Probably the other weirdest call I've gotten was a guy asking about a Herpes vaccine. Apparently, UF is developing one, and this guy had been reading about it on WebMD and wanted to know more. I asked if he was with any company, and he said that no, he's just curious for personal reasons. Yeah, I wonder what those are.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

How can you not like a man from Philly?

After reading this article in Slate, I got to thinking about the movies I like, and in particular, M. Night Shyamalan. Everyone enjoys The Sixth Sense, but after Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village, everyone has started really panning the writer/director/producer. I think I may be in the minority when I say that I really enjoyed those movies.

Admittedly, I have some biases. I love a director who pays extra attention to cinematography, how the camera moves, and comes up with cool ways to show what’s happening on screen. This may be why I'm probably the only person on earth to have seen the horrible, horrible movie Nicholas Cage movie, Snake Eyes twice. It was the first time I had seen split screens, flashbacks, and camera tricks like that, and I was fascinated.

Shyamalan is a director who is looking for that interesting shot. Most of my examples come from Unbreakable, as that’s the movie I've seen most recently. The first scene in the movie is a one camera, one take deal, which starts out shooting into a mirror reflection, turns around, and turns back to the mirror. Another shot has Bruce Willis looking out an open window, with the curtains blowing. The curtains obscure the entire view for large chunks of time, but it adds suspense and builds tension.

Also, I like slow movies. I'm a guy who can sit through Brokeback Mountain and Lost in Translation and still enjoy them. Most people get bored half way through. Heck, I can stay awake through those, but last night I feel asleep during the Two Towers during the Warg Attack.

Shyamalan isn't afraid to let silence do the work. A good silence, done by a good actor, can be much more powerful than the most heart wrenching of monologues. Most directors, inspired by MTV and action movies, don't know what to do without sound. Shyamalan can.

His weakness is completing a story. Sometimes, things just don't fit together well. Unbreakable could have stood a little more superhero-ness, Signs' ending was a deus ex machina that let the viewer down. But what Shyamalan can do is construct a simply amazing scene. The moment in Sixth Sense when the ghost turned around to show the gaping bullet wound in his head. The final scene in the same movie when everything came together. In Unbreakable, the scene where Bruce Willis is lifting weights in his basement, and suddenly finds he can lift 500 pounds. Also in Unbreakable, the scene in the train station, with the main character standing in a crowd, touching them, and finding out what bad things they've done. All of them beautifully acted, shot, written and directed.

My favorite scene from M. Nigh Shyamalan was in I. Joaquim Phoenix is sitting watching television when the news comes on, saying they have a picture of an alien. They cut to a home video of a birthday party in Brazil. There's screaming children, and the camera is taken to a window looking over an alley way. All of a sudden, an alien walks by.

That's it. No alien attacks, no fights. Just an alien walking across an alleyway. I'm getting chills just writing about the scene. Every time I see it, I freak out just a little. I think the first time I saw the movie, I hissed "oh shit" during that scene and gripped the armrests tightly. Its a combination of how the scene was done, but also a bit of the realization of "If aliens invaded, this is exactly the way we'd first see the alien."

I never saw The Village, but its going on my Netflix queue right now. And I definitely plan on seeing Lady in the Water. Will it be The Sixth Sense? Probably not. But when a person is as talented at M. Night Shyamalan, I want to be sure to take their work in.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It Was a Weird Morning

Getting off the bus this morning, I heard a woman behind me go 'Excuse Me!' I turned to find a short Indian woman staring at intently me. She put her hand on my shoulder and leaned in, like she was about to tell me a very important secret that could save my life in the next twenty-four hours.

"I'm old enough to be your mother," she said. "So you won't be embarrassed when I tell you your fly is open."

I looked down, and its not just a little open. Its a gaping maw of underwear and humilation. I mumbled thanks and scuried away, frantically grabbing at my crotch.

Immediately after that, I was walking by the new library when a janitor walked out carrying two trash bags. The first thing you noticed about this man was that he was a little person. I guess he caught me sneaking a glance at him, because as he walked by, he turned to me and said, "Welcome, sir, the University of Florida! Home of the Florida Gators!"

There's really nothing you can say to that, so I once again scuried away and mumbled a thanks.

What is Israel doing?

Now, I'm not the most informed person, but I'm very confused about what the hell Israel is trying to do in Lebanon. Their attacks in response to the kidnapping of their soldiers maked sense. But everything after isn't entirely comprehensible.

They attack the Beirut airport multiple times. The Beirut-Damascus highway is gone. They blockade the ports (which incidentally, makes it more difficult for Europeans and Americans to get out). Today there are reports that they hit a hospital. The Israeli government has alternately said they want to establish a 30 mile buffer, they just want to disarm Hizbollah, and that they're willing to talk cease fire.

As has been pointed out multiple times, disarming Hizbollah will be very difficult. They don't have arms depots, their weapons are spread throughout the homes of their supporters. Rockets are launched from backyards. To disarm the area would require a methodical house to house search of a very large area by a very large force. I'm not sure Israel is up for that (not militarily, but rather morale-wise).

The idea of a buffer zone reminds me too much of Stalin. And the only way they could realistically achieve that is occupation. Israel occupied Lebanon before. It didn't work out so well then. Heck, that’s what prompted the formation of Hizbollah in the first place. I know, ideally, the plan is for the Lebanese army to take over the area now controlled by Hizbollah, but the military is incredibly weak, I don't see that happening.

The cease fire is even less likely to happen without major international involvement. Hizbollah is not going to stop lobbing rockets into Israel, which means Israel can't realistically stop hitting targets.

This seems less and less likely to evolve into a regional war. Amazingly, most Arab countries are siding with the Israelis (though this is more out of fear of Iranian influence than a like for Israel). But I don't see how this can stop short of a UN Peacekeeping force (that can shoot back at people shooting them. This is important, but often overlooked in UN forces). The other option is another Israeli occupation, which will never end well.

Israel is rapidly running out of choices. If they don't get a peace established in the next few decades, there will be more Arabs than Jews in the country (those pesky birth rates get in the way). Another occupation isn't going to make the goal any more likely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fake Billboards, Stupid Doctors, and Overheard Conversations

I have nothing to report today. It was a day of mindless monotony followed by pointless drudgery. But one side benefit of having an office job where no one can see your computer is the ability to surf the web whenever I want. Here are some of the interesting things I found today.

First item is this:

On the surface, it appears to be one of the ultimate revenges a woman can pull on a scumbag husband. Combined with the blog, it seems pretty convincing. However, it seems that the billboard appeared in both LA and New York. Unless this Emily and her husband have a much bigger joint bank account than I thought, its unlikely all is on the up and up. Turns out, it’s probably a viral marketing scam, most likely for a CourtTV show. I'm pretty disappointed, especially as I wasted 20 precious minutes of my life reading that blog.

Second Item is an article the Washington Post about medical professionals refusing to give care, based on their religious beliefs. My personal possession is that you have the right to not provide care, but then you're employers have the right not to employ you. Shouting religious discrimination doesn't give you an excuse for refusing to give a rape victim the morning after pill. My favorite quote is this. The good doctor is saying how he shouldn't even have to refer those he won't treat to a doctor who will give the treatment.

"Think about slavery," said physician William Toffler of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. "I am a blacksmith and a slave owner asks me to repair the shackles of a slave. Should I have to say, 'I can't do it but there's a blacksmith down the road who will?' "

Comparing anything to slavery is like comparing someone to a Nazi. It means you automatically lose. This of course does not include if something actually is slavery.

A few weeks ago, I was at Starbucks with Alice, who just got into med school. She told me about her visit to a forum for new medical students. One forum was asking for people who wanted to be gynecologists, and why they wanted to do that. It seems that a great majority of the people who responded wanted to get into the field to educate women about why they shouldn't take birth control. And then I shuddered.

There's no doubt that it takes a special person to be a gynecologist. I certainly couldn't do it. So they must have to be pretty driven to get into that field. But if that's your motivation, do me a favor: Don't be a doctor. Religious fervor is well in some instances (like a crusade), but when you start preventing people from having in vitro fertilization procedures because they're gay, or don't give women a drug so they can complete their miscarriage because you think they're trying to have an abortion, you should seriously reconsider the field of work you're in.

Sorry for that rant.

Finally, there's the fallout over Bush's use of the word shit. The sad thing is that the media is focusing more on the use of the word rather than what was actually said. There are a lot of analysis going around about this overheard conversation. Two of the best I've found are at Slate and Juan Cole's blog. What I find really worrying is that while one is supportive of what Bush said and the other is very critical, I find myself agreeing with both.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bullshit I say! (and a small treatise on Quiznos)

Got some rather disheartening news today: my first paycheck will be coming on August 4th. That's nearly three weeks from today. Current bank balance: $213. I have maybe $50 bucks on my Applebee's pay card. This is going to be tough.

I'd like to say that I can't believe that the bureaucracy of UF would be that inefficient that it would take all of last week and parts of this week to finally get me on the payroll. But I can't even type that without cracking a smile. The scary thing is that I think UF is a pretty efficient place for the type and size of an organization that it is. Makes me scared to see other Universities.

If it starts looking desperate next week, I can always go sell my plasma. I'd rather not, as I like my body fluids. But if it’s a choice between eating and having a needle rather uncomfortably shoved into my arm for an hour, the decision is easy.

So resolutions: Don't eat out. Ever. Maybe by not going to restaurants for so long, I can break myself of the habit I got to in college of never cooking. But let me tell you, on August 5th, once the upcoming huge paycheck is safely in my bank account, I'm thinking Newberry's. Mmmmm....Baby Backs.

Also, try not to drive. I have maybe half a tank left. If I stretch it, I can maybe make that last two weeks. And with the cheapest gas in town being 2.98 on Sunday (and who knows what it is today), filling my tank would put a significant dent in my remaining funds.

Before this afternoon, I thought I was going to get paid next Friday, which is much more doable. So for lunch, I decided I would go to the Hub. The new Quiznos opened up today, and I have one suggestion: Do Not Go There. They were slow and disorganized, as one can only assume they would be on their first day. But once I actually got my food (20 minutes after I ordered it), my first thought was...this is it? For the money I paid, there needed to be a lot more sub. Oh well, its not like I'm eating there for another three weeks anyways.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

First Weekend back in the 'ville

I mentioned on Friday that I was going to be doing a lot of drinking this weekend. That was not an exaggeration.


- I actually managed to party until 4 AM on Friday. Considering I had been up since 7, this is even more of an accomplishment than it normally would be.

- Spent 45 minutes on Friday explaining why Isreal is invading Lebanon, why the entire region tends to dissolve into chaos on a fairly regular basis, and the history of wars and violence in the Middle East, which I'm proud to say went all the way back to the mid-1800's. I was pretty drunk at the time, so I either was brilliant or completely incomprehensible. The girl I was explaining it to looked impressed. Then again, she was drunk too.

- Kind of an anti-highlight: I went out on Saturday with Jackie and her friend, who I will call Tiffany, because that is her name. One thing I really don't like is indecisiveness, especially when I want to get drunk. Tiffany, for the life of her, could not make up her mind to decide where she wanted to go. Do we want to go downtown or midtown? After we got downtown, do we want to go to Stubbies? Whiskey Room? Bar One? After a while, I started making the decisions for her, because she obviously wasn't able to make them at the time. Once we actually sat down in Bar One and started pumping Red Bulls and assorted alcohols into Tiffany, she was a lot more fun. I think her shoes were really hurting her feet or something. Note to self: It’s a good thing not to wear heels.

- The discovery that Bar One on Saturdays has $15 all you can drink top shelf alcohol. And even better, we only paid for one of those things, and we all got free drinks. I predict on me being there a lot more often.

I also found that I'm getting into the single thing again. Meeting girls, talking to them, trying to impress them with my giant brain, getting shot down when they casually mention they already have a boyfriend. You know, the usual. But I had a lot of fun hanging out with different people. After a year of doing pretty much nothing but Phi Sig stuff, it’s good to suddenly remember that there are a bunch of other people who you're friends with, and they're just as excited to see you as you are to see them.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

First Review!

From Kelly:

"i'm not gonna lie, you're no mike cushing, but i'm amused"

Really, what more could you ask?


On the suggestion of John Scalzi, I checked out the new Muse album Black Holes & Revelations. I've been listening to it none stop since I got it. It’s a lot different from what I've been listening to recently, which has been mostly Ben Folds and Jonathan Coulton. Its very prog rock, with a lot of synthesizers and driving beats. The lead singer's got a voice a lot like the lead singer of Radiohead, and Muse is definitely inspired by that band's work. But I'm finding myself liking Muse a lot more. More upbeat and even the depressing songs tend to have a good beat that you can dance to.

Embarrassingly, I'm finding myself dancing around Dimsey's room to the third track "Supermassive Black Hole."

I love Mitch Clem

It's updated sporadically, but Mitch Clem's site is one of the best webcomics out there.

Friday, July 14, 2006

After Three Days on the new job

I'm working at the Office of Technology Licensing (a word that no matter hard I try, I can't spell correctly). After three days, it’s slowly getting better.

For the first day, I was a receptionist. That was it. Pick up the mail, transfer the phone calls. While it was nice to get paid $12 an hour to play Dynomite, it gets real old, real quick. I sent my dad a few emails in the middle of the day, which prompted him to call me later that evening going, "Shouldn't you be working instead of sending me emails about Al-Queda hating Rotary Clubs?"

Eventually, I was forced to something that will haunt me for at least another year: I asked for work. I've set the standard of behavior on which I will be compared for the rest of the time I work there. Sometimes, I am a moron.

The work I'm doing now isn't that exciting, but at least its doing something. Cleaning out databases, correcting false and wrong entries, that type of stuff. It makes the time pass.

Complaints about the job: I'm usually the most dressed up person, but as the person sitting in the receptionist desk, I need to be kind of professional looking. Or at least, that’s the explanation my boss gave me. Since I open up and close, I have to be there at 8, and I have to stay there till 5. That means my lunch break must be an hour. It sounds nice until you try doing it. Its way too long for lunch, especially after years of having 30 minutes, at best, to eat. I wolf my food down in about 15 minutes, then try to find something to occupy my time.

But these are minor things. I knew about them coming in, so its not like it was a surprise. Overall, the people are nice, the work easy and doable, and the environment relaxed. I'm going to try and score some points with the big boss man by bring him the new Muse CD I downloaded this afternoon. He told me the one rule of the job is that any good music you discover must be brought in. This is also the guy who when interviewing me, his first question is "What kind of music do you listen to?"

Tonight, there will be drinking, both in celebration of Alice's imminent departure for Med School and, more personally, the fact that it’s Friday and I finished the first week of my first real job. If that’s not worth drinking to, then nothing is.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Once again, the Middle East falls apart

I never claimed to be an expert on Middle East affairs, so if what I'm about to say is either factually incorrect or just plain stupid, let me know what’s wrong and I'll change it.

Unless something major happens, we could be looking at another Arab-Israeli War. Things had been looking up too. Ok, kind of up. Fine, slightly better than they had been before. Israel had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and had at least acknowledged that a Palestinian state was inevitable. The Palestinians held an election, which is always a good step. And while the fact that Hamas won the election sent the world into a panic, it wasn't quite as bad as it seemed. There are a few different divisions within Hamas, some are more moderate than others. It was too early to tell which of these sects would come out on top, and there were a few clues pointing towards the moderates.

Then it all goes to hell. Palestinian terrorists attack Israel and capture a solider. Yesterday, two more Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers are captured and taken into Lebanon. Israel responded like they always do: With way too much force. They blow up the runways at the Beirut airport, impose a naval blockade on the country, attack suburbs and highways.

There are a few problems with this. First off, Hezbollah, the Iranian funded Shi'ite terrorist organization, took these soldiers. Israel says that it is holding the Lebanese government responsible for an act by a group that they don't and aren't able to control. The Lebanese government is weak after the Syrians withdrew earlier in the year and has next to no control over the Southern areas of the country. Attacking a city far to the north of the place of the crime isn't going to solve anything.

It may acutally make things worse. Syria's still pissed about being forced out of Lebanon by the Cypress Revolution. When and if Israel leaves, Syria's ready to come right back in and fill the power vacuum. And that may be the best case scenario.

If Israel doesn't get their soldiers back, it may mean a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, the dropping of the plan to leave parts of the West Bank, and a reoccupation of parts of Lebanon. It's possible but unlikely that Syria becomes involved directly, though that's never gone well for the country. It’s very unlikely that Jordan or Egypt would get involved, but in this area of the world, who the hell knows.

Now the question that’s always important to me: What can the US do to calm things down? Honestly, not that much. If we really wanted to be bold, we could threaten to cut off military aid to Israel unless they calm down a little. But that won't happen. The pro-Israel leanings in the US are too strong, and to be fair, Israel is just trying to get its soldiers back.

What's more likely is that Bush and Rice will say a few words on exercising restraint on both sides, and then pray for the best. Unfortunately, prayers tend not to get answered in this part of the world. At least, not anymore.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trivia Night

One thing I missed about Gainesville while I was gone was the sheer number of people I can call and bother to do something. Even better is when they call me. Amos IMed me and invited me out to Trivia Night at Hooters. I said yes, cause my other options were staying home and...staying home. There's only so much Tiger Woods 2005 one can take.

One benefit to being a history major is that basically, your entire education consists of useless trivia. When you combine that knowledge with my natural affinity for remembering the most pointless information, you get someone who should be very good at trivia. And I am. As I was telling my friend Kelly the other day, I'm a small demigod of trivia. I'm way down in the pantheon, but I'm there.

Our team did fairly well, though we didn't win, place, or show. I think I was responsible for a good third of the answers, though I did fuck up a few times. The biggest of which was when I said that there was no possible way the music clip they played was Jewel's Save Your Soul. It was but in my defense, how the hell was I supposed to know that that song had a bass solo?

There are problems with the event though. The first of which is that its at Hooters. That place always creeps me out a little. I like looking at attractive girls as much as the next guy, but the Hooters Girls then want to talk to you. Talking to pretty girls, especially ones I don't know, has never been my forte, so I tend to become real uncomfortable, real quick.

My other main complaint that they try to make it an event, with handless beer chugging contests, wing eating contests, making guys sing "I'm A Little Teapot," that sort of thing. Frankly, I don't care. I came to answer general knowledge questions and hang out with my friends. Everything else is just creating more noise.

Tomorrow, I'll answer everyone's questions about my new job. Cause I'm getting the same ones over and over again.

A Statement of Purpose

Hello. I'm Matt. And this is my blog.

I've been talking about making a blog for a while, but my innate laziness has always prevented me. That's one of my problems: I talk big, but rarely follow through. But finally, I'm bored enough and have little to do in life that a blog sounds like a good idea. So, my friends, I welcome you to Gainesville Ramblings.

A little bit about me: I'm 21 and I've just graduated from UF with a degree in history (it’s not a major anymore!). Due to me being a moron, getting engaged after a seven month relationship and breaking it off about two weeks before graduation, I decided living in Gainesville for another year while I get my shit together was probably my best option. Considering the only other option was living at home, this makes sense.

Unlike most of my friends, I managed to find a job pretty quickly. I attribute this to luck and knowing the ins and outs of the UF administrative bullshit more than anything like hard work and persistence. I'm working at the Office of Technology Licensing as something I like to call 'Office Bitch.' In other words, I do whatever they tell me to do. But I'm getting paid well to do it, so at least I'm smiling when they give me orders.

I'm liberal, fairly political, and pretty knowledgeable about current events and international politics. I want to work for the State Department, maybe go to law school, and maybe get into politics later (hey, Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State).

So now here comes the important question since I have you reading this (all none of you): What is this, and what am I going to talk about? Basically, it’s going to be a weird combination of blog types. There will be quite a bit of politics talked about, with a bit of Bush bashing. I'll talk about my life on occasion, tell amusing incidents, or maybe I just feel like writing an essay on Lost or the importance of flossing (only one of these will actually be written about). Interesting links, funny pictures and videos, all of this will be here.

But this is also going to be my writing time. I took Writing and Love during sophomore year, and the teacher, the great Vikram Rangala, told us to write every day. For a large chunk of that class, I did just that. And my writing improved an incredibly amount. I stopped about 3/4ths through the class, and my writing has been very slowly degrading since. So now that I don't have to worry about classes or the Frat, I can write. This is it. I hope you enjoy.